The Rapidian

Project Light Change Powers Up in Grand Rapids

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Project Light Change, an energy efficiency focused, Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulb distribution project of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) will be distributing 20,000 free bulbs to residents in the City of Grand Rapids. Starting in June 2010, neighborhood associations will be working with WMEAC to distribute the CFLs to households throughout the city. Neighborhoods included in this distribution are: Creston and Garfield Park Neighborhood Associations, Oakdale Neighbors, Fuller Area Neighbors, East Town Community Association, South West Area Neighbors, John Ball Park Neighbors, and West Grand Neighborhood Organization. Residents of these neighborhoods are encouraged to contact their association for information on how to receive their free CFLs.

Accompanying the bulbs will be educational literature describing the benefits of CFLs along with information on why residents should recycle the bulbs and where they can take them to be recycled. There are many locations in the city that will recycle CFLs free of charge. Community education about the benefits and hazards of CFLs including mercury mitigation is one of the primary goals of the project.

Project Light Change also aims to help residents of Grand Rapids to save money on their utility bills by reducing energy consumption. CFL bulbs are good for the pocket book as well as the environment. CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy than their standard incandescent or “traditional” counterparts. One bulb could save a homeowner $30 or more over its 5+ year lifespan. The 20,000 CFLs will have a positive effect on the Grand Rapids community by saving residents about $940,000 on electric bills and preventing emissions of more than 21 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents, a measure of greenhouse gas impact. Nola Steketee, Executive Director of West Grand Neighborhood Organization said that “WGNO is excited to be a part of this project. Not only are we sharing some cost saving measures with our residents, but we are showing them a way to be green as well. To us, it’s a win-win situation.”

Tavio Benetti, Project Engineer at Sustainable Research Group, has been researching and educating community leaders about safe sites to capture the small amount of mercury from the bulbs. “Each CFL bulb contains about 2.4 milligrams of mercury; they should be dropped off at designated locations for mercury recapture after use. WMEAC’s website has an interactive tool to help people find local drop-off spots,” stated Tavio. “Mercury is a toxic we want to keep it out of landfills and incinerators. Recycling the mercury is very important”.

Many citizens in the city of Grand Rapids are unaware that their trash is collected and taken to a waste incinerator. Although the waste-to-energy process produces valuable electricity from the refuse, it is also the worst place for a CFL bulb to end up at the end of its useful life. The project’s coordinator, Ann Erhardt, said that “We want to encourage residents of Grand Rapids to recycle their CFLs but also we want educate them as to why it is important to their community.”

“It should clear up some misinformation that folks may have in safely using the light bulbs in households with children. We feel very fortunate to partner with WMEAC on this project and look forward to sharing the fruits of their grant effort with our residents.” said Mary Bueche, Crime Prevention Organizer of South West Area Neighbors (SWAN)

Project Light Change is funded by the Michigan Public Service Commission to distribute CFLs to targeted cities and neighborhoods in West Michigan. The success of this project is attributed to the support of many community partners. WMEAC is a non-profit, membership organization working to lead environmental protection in West Michigan by inspiring action. WMEAC involves citizens in environmental education and action to protect our region’s exceptional natural resources. Additional information can be found on the WMEAC website www.wmeac.org.

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